Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

A Genre Analysis of Death Announcements in an Iranian Daily

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

A Genre Analysis of Death Announcements in an Iranian Daily

Article excerpt

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1. Introduction

Research on genre concerns itself with the analysis of language use in routine settings. The concept of genre has been described differently by various scholars. It has been viewed as a staged, goal -oriented, social process (Martin, 1992), and as a ?sociopsychological category defined by a structural ar rangement of textual features' (Bazerman, 1988). For Kress (1987), ?Genre is the term which describes that aspect of the form of texts which is due to the effect of their production in particular social occasions' (p. 36). However, most approaches to genre analysis identify two areas of knowledge (cf. Swales, 1990) that provide clues to text genres: knowledge of formal schema (i.e. the rhetorical structure of a text type) and content schema (?what content is appropriate to a particular purpose in a particular situation at a particular time'; Berkenkotter and Huckin, 1995: 13).

Studies on genre have focused on a variety of socially constructed academic and professional genres. Important genres that have received little attention from researchers, however, are what Miller (1984) calls ?homely' discourses. These are easily recognizable socially constructed text genres of everyday life. The term ?homely' discourse subsumes, among others, various kinds of ceremony announcements, particularly birth announcements (cf. Hoberg, 1983), obituaries, wedding invitations and congratulations.

The obituary, or obit as it is generally called in the newsroom, is a category of genre texts that forms an important part of the day's news. Newspaper readers, within a country and thr oughout the world read obituary announcements. They have the specific communicative function of ?informing the potential audience about deaths, and in some cases, funeral arrangements and other details' (Nwoye, 1992: 15).

If we look at obituary announcements, particularly at their more specific realizations in Iranian newspapers, we find one general type of announcement. The normal death notices, usually entitled 'obituary', announcing a death resulting from an automobile accident, illness, stroke, etc.

One of the most relevant studies compared English and German death notices in daily newspapers (Fries, 1990a). Fries found that English and German death notices contain information about the name of the deceased, which is the only 'obligatory' element, as Fries called it, and 'optional' elements including 'announcing the death', 'time and place of death', 'age of the deceased' and 'the announcer'. Another study investigated the history of English death notices from 1785 to 1985 (cf. Fries, 1990b). Nwoye (1992 ) analyzed obituary announcements in Nigerian newspapers written in English and compared them with similar announcements in English and German analyzed by Fries (1990a). Obituary notices in Nigeria were found to have what Nwoye (1992) referred to as 'oblig atory features' including 'an introduction', 'the name of the deceased', 'date, place, and manner of death', 'burial arrangement', 'survivors' and 'some identification of the announcer/sender'.

This article attempts to clarify the nature and various manifestations of obituary announcements in Iran as used in an Iranian newspapers (???????) to see what generic structures are common in a variety of death notices, and what sociocultural communicative functions are articulated by these generic patterns. This re search is the first of its type to examine the linguistic, rhetorical and organizational structure of Iranian death announcements. We hope that the results will be of help in further understanding genre identification and construction, as well as in the sociocultural interpretation and constraints that give rise to this routine genre in daily newspapers. Moreover, the significance of this study lies in its contribution towards providing greater illumination of the interrelations between social communicative events, which are an intriguing aspect of genre research. …

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